clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Two O’Clock Number: 29

New, comments

The Flyers have generally needed 20 minutes to get going this year, but then they really get going. Can they build off that?

Vancouver Canucks v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

29 - the Flyers’ rank, out of 31 NHL teams, in 5-on-5 Expected Goals percentage (xG %) in the first period of games this year, according to Moneypuck’s Expected Goals model. In the first period this year, the Flyers have a team-level Expected Goals percentage of 41.7%, leading only the Rangers and Sharks. (Expected Goals is the percentage of goals scored during the game that one would expect a team to collect based on the volume and quality of the shots they take and allow. For a further explanation on the statistic in general, click here. For more specifics on this particular model of Expected Goals, click here.)

In and of itself, that’s somewhat noteworthy because it’s, well, bad. But it’s even more interesting when you consider the fact that, by the exact same measure, they’re fourth in the NHL in xG % in the second period, and fifth in the third period. (The below table is sortable.)

5-on-5 Expected Goal %, By Period

Team Pd. 1 Pd. 1 Rank Pd. 2 Pd. 2 Rank Pd. 3 Pd. 3 Rank
Team Pd. 1 Pd. 1 Rank Pd. 2 Pd. 2 Rank Pd. 3 Pd. 3 Rank
NYR 38.9% 31 43.6% 28 52.1% 9
S.J 41.5% 30 45.9% 26 49.0% 16
PHI 41.7% 29 54.5% 4 55.3% 5
ANA 42.7% 28 56.3% 2 47.2% 21
WPG 42.9% 27 41.3% 31 49.0% 17
STL 44.3% 26 46.9% 24 46.8% 23
TOR 45.0% 25 53.9% 6 48.6% 18
CBJ 47.4% 24 53.8% 7 50.7% 12
EDM 48.3% 23 50.8% 14 53.1% 7
BOS 48.6% 22 48.5% 20 51.0% 11
BUF 48.9% 21 49.4% 19 44.8% 29
FLA 49.0% 20 50.2% 16 49.5% 14
COL 49.2% 19 52.4% 11 41.8% 31
CGY 49.5% 18 43.1% 29 53.9% 6
L.A 49.8% 17 55.0% 3 52.3% 8
DET 50.4% 16 46.5% 25 47.0% 22
CHI 50.5% 15 42.8% 30 46.5% 24
NYI 50.6% 14 51.5% 12 46.3% 25
WSH 51.2% 13 50.5% 15 47.9% 20
NSH 51.3% 12 53.2% 8 59.9% 2
OTT 51.5% 11 49.8% 18 48.2% 19
ARI 52.2% 10 48.3% 22 46.3% 26
PIT 53.1% 9 52.7% 10 62.2% 1
MTL 53.1% 8 45.6% 27 58.2% 3
T.B 53.2% 7 49.9% 17 49.1% 15
N.J 54.1% 6 48.3% 21 45.2% 28
VGK 55.0% 5 56.9% 1 46.2% 27
DAL 56.5% 4 54.1% 5 50.4% 13
VAN 57.3% 3 52.9% 9 43.6% 30
MIN 60.4% 2 47.9% 23 51.6% 10
CAR 61.2% 1 51.3% 13 56.0% 4

In each of their last two games — Monday’s win over Vancouver and Saturday’s shootout loss to Calgary — the Flyers shook off fairly sleepy first periods to really control the run of play in the final 40 minutes. While they were only rewarded justly in one of those two games, there was a lot to like about how they played in both of them. And though in some ways the above findings feel a little counter-intuitive given how many third-period leads the Flyers have coughed up in the past few weeks, there definitely have been several games where this team has had to weather the storm of a bad start, only to find another gear as the game’s gone on.

And it’s worth noting that this performance does match up with the actual, goal-based numbers quite well in two of the three periods of the game. In the first period, the Flyers are being outscored at 5-on-5 by six goals, the fourth-worst mark in the NHL; meanwhile, in the third, they’re outscoring their opponents at 5-on-5 by five goals, which is tied for the sixth-best in the league. Both of those numbers align near-perfectly with the “bad in the first, good after that” picture painted by Expected Goals. Only in the second period do the underlying numbers seem to not match up with the actual numbers; the Flyers have been outscored at five-a-side by five goals in the second period despite the numbers thinking they should be doing much better than that.

The one caveat to the findings here is that score effects are most likely at play to some extent. Score effects — the idea that teams that trail early in games are more likely to control the run of play as games go on — have an effect on Expected Goals, and as you can see elsewhere on the table, there are a number of teams that perform poorly in earlier periods only to turn it up a bit later in the game (such as the Rangers, Oilers, and Flames), and the opposite is true for some teams as well (see: the Canucks, Devils, and Golden Knights). But even with that acknowledged, those jumps appear to mostly happen in the third period, and it’s hard to find a team towards the bottom of the first-period rankings that jumps up as high as the Flyers do in the second and then sustains it into the third.

The more interesting question on all of this, one probably better suited for a smarter person than me, is: why? What’s driving the big difference here between the first 20 minutes and the final 40? Is it something the coaches are doing early on, and/or adjustments they’re making as the game goes on? Are the players saving energy for later in the game? Are certain players playing more or less in certain parts of the game in a way that turns that number? Is it just score effects? Are they doing a good job controlling play in the second period but letting some transition chances get away from them en route to goals against, driving the discrepancy pointed out earlier? Do the Flyers give their players lots of fruit and healthy nutrients in the first intermission that turn them into better hockey players?

It’s tough to say without really digging in to what’s going on here. But high-level, it does seem like if this team can keep doing what it’s doing in later periods while figuring out the first 20 minutes, its ceiling as a team is going to get higher.